Tuesday, 6 January 2015

The Profumo scandal spooks the conservative establishment

As revealed in the previous blog Britain, during the early 1960s, was under the control of a male dominated, complacent, rather self-satisfied conservative establishment, with Prime Minister Harold Macmillan as the figurehead of this ruling class. He had been hailed as Supermac for his landslide victory in the 1959 general election, just three years after the Suez debacle. However the shine was starting to come off him a little by early 1963. The stop-go economy, the 'night of the long knives' (during which he was panicked into sacking a third of his cabinet) and more recently the humiliation of French President De Gaulle's resolute non to Britain's common market entry, had all tarnished his reputation somewhat. However, these events would all pale into insignificance with the media firestorm that was about to overwhelm the Conservative government relating to the extra curricular activities of the War Minister John Profumo.

The facts of the sorry saga are well known. Profumo met model Christine Keeler at Cliveden, the country estate of Lord Astor. The pair carried out a clandestine affair which Fleet Street became aware of but, in that age of deference, the relationship was kept secret. However, unbeknown to Profumo, Miss Keeler was sharing her favours with a Soviet naval attaché and the fear arose that national security might have become compromised. As a result rumours and innuendo over the relationship began to appear in the press. Initially Profumo brazenly attempted to deny the affair, lying to Parliament that there had been any impropriety in their relationship. His position quickly became untenable and he was soon forced to admit in Parliament that he had lied, resigning in disgrace immediately afterwards. The circumstances of his departure dealt a body blow to the Macmillan government. From a government perspective the main concern was over the national security implications. The subsequent Denning Report concluded that there had been no breach of national security.

However, the impact of the Profumo scandal on the British national psyche was much more far reaching as the strident press coverage revealed a picture of moral debauchery and licentiousness among the ruling elite that had hitherto been concealed from the wider British public. This centred on the activities of society osteopath Stephen Ward, who owned the flat shared by Christine Keeler and fellow model Mandy Rice-Davies. Ward was a compulsive social climber who was able to ingratiate himself with his social superiors by facilitating introductions between his wealthy high society clients and fun loving young ladies such as Miss Keeler and Miss Rice-Davies. Unfortunately for him, after the Profumo scandal broke, this would lead to his downfall as he was charged with procuring women and living off the immoral earnings of prostitutes. In reality it was Keeler and Rice Davies who were being subsidised by Ward.

During his trial none of Ward's wealthy friends were prepared to support him as character witnesses. Many observers today consider that he was a victim of an establishment stitch up involving perjured evidence and the blackmail of potential witnesses by the police. The prosecution portrayed Ward as representing 'the very depths of lechery and depravity' while the judge adopted a similarly hostile attitude. As a result of the condemnatory summing up by the judge on the last day of the trial Ward took an overdose of sleeping tablets and died a few days later. Meanwhile the jury found him guilty of living off the immoral earnings of Keeler and Rice-Davies. The establishment feared that 'the moral fabric of family life' was under threat from 'this explosion of sexual scandal' and Ward was set up as the scapegoat. His trial was the conservative establishment's revenge for the humiliation it had suffered in the fallout from the Profumo affair. Fifty years later the politically correct establishment would also use show trials to enforce their own sexual agenda.

No comments:

Post a Comment